Tag Archives: BCFC

Not according to plan

I had planned to spend the weekend in London but changed my plans and stayed just one night so that I could go to the FA cup game against Coventry. 

Friday went well and according to plan.  I had no trouble finding a seat on the train to London and I was able to check into my hotel room early.  I spent the afternoon at Tate Britain, mainly to see the Year 3 exhibition of 3,128 class photos of London’s Year 3 children, over 76,000 children. A Guardian article described it as a portrait of “a city’s potential.” The smiling young faces in the photos left me feeling worried about the world in which they’re growing up. So I appreciated the laughs in the evening, when I went to see Frank Skinner putting on a masterful display of stand-up comedy at the Garrick Theatre.

On Saturday, my travel back to Birmingham and getting to the game went well but I don’t think the game went according to plan. Surely nobody would plan a goalless draw. It could have been worse; we would have lost if O’Hare hadn’t missed an opportunity to score right at the end. There was also some consolation in the novelty and the chants. The warmup before the game provided a first opportunity to see Moha Ramos, the substitute goalie, in action. And after the game, it was good to see Jude Bellingham giving his shirt away to a child.   I was in row 4 of the lower Gil Merrick stand, which felt far too low down to get a decent view of the game but it gave me a renewed appreciation for the view from my seat in row 18 of the Kop.

I was disappointed that we didn’t score during the game but was glad I’d gone. It would have been a pity to miss seeing Birmingham City playing away at St Andrew’s.

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Coventry in the Cup, gambling and Blues news

As the BBC website said in its report: “In front of a paltry St Andrew’s crowd of just 2,697 on a foul night, Coventry set up a first meeting with Birmingham since beating them 3-2 in the League Cup at the Ricoh Arena in August 2012.” And we’ll be playing as the away team in our own stadium. I went to the game and enjoyed it. I find watching football much less stressful when I have an interest in a game but no deep emotional attachment.  I wanted Coventry to win so that Blues could play away at St Andrew’s but if Coventry had lost, I wouldn’t have felt as distressed as I do when Blues lose.

Gambling and football

On Sunday, there was an article on the Guardian website about the gamblification of football and the relationship between the Premier League’s income from media and gambling.

“The basis of the Premier League’s immense wealth is its media rights, sold to broadcasters and then on to viewers in packages costing as much as £50 a month. Manchester City versus Liverpool, of course, is a very easy sell, Norwich versus Bournemouth not so much. But a bet can turn an armchair viewer into a Canaries fan for 90 minutes and boost the audience for lesser matches, while the package prices might rise without the revenue from adverts in the breaks.”

The most recent issue of When Saturday Comes, Issue 395,included an editorial on the incongruity of Wayne Rooney’s video about his problems with gambling being produced by 32Red, the betting company that funded his arrival at Derby. It included the information that “16 of the Championship’s 24 clubs have gambling firms on their shirts”.

The good news is that using credit cards to gamble is going to be banned. A BBC article said that “there are examples of consumers who have accumulated tens of thousands of pounds of debt through gambling because of credit card availability.”

Blues news

Last weekend started well with a win against Luton. The timing was different to the Blackburn game but the events were repeated. Birmingham scored first, the opposition equalised with a penalty, then Birmingham scored again and Harlee Dean was sent off. Reports said that it wasn’t pretty and a tweet from Brian Dick said, “#bcfc have no need to apologise for that victory, substance over style is no bad thing. Hopefully the last two matches are a small acorn that will grow into something much more stable. Striker help so obviously needed, though.”

Blues Trust published a post designed to help readers decide if the sale  and leaseback arrangement of St Andrew’s is a good or bad thing. It’s worth reading if you are interested in how the club is being run. Blues Trust’s view is that it would have been helpful if the club had been more open when the Trust asked about this in May and said, “major issues affecting the club need good communication and sometimes consultation”.

On Monday, an article on football finance included bad news on our financial situation but a nice tribute to our fans. “A shout out for the fans: ‘Despite their many issues, Blues have now seen their attendance rise 5 years in a row from the 15,457 low point in 2013/14, which reflects very well on their supporters. In fact, the 22,483 attendance last season was the highest since they were last in the Premier League in 2011.’” 

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Notes on the news

There was a lot of news about Birmingham City this week. On Monday, the draw for the FA Cup fourth round brought up the intriguing possibility of Blues being the away team at St Andrew’s if Coventry win the third round replay. The FA confirmed that Coventry would be the home team if the tie goes ahead.  A club announcement said that the Middlesbrough game would be moved to Tuesday evening,  21 January.

On Tuesday, the accounts were published and revealed that “freehold land and buildings” had been sold to Birmingham City Stadium Limited, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Birmingham Sports Holding Limited. This raised questions about the application to register St Andrew’s as an Asset of Community Value.  A post on the Blues Trust website explained the timeline for this and said,

“The failure of the Club to tell the fans that the ground had been sold … is a continuing example of the unwillingness of Directors to engage with supporters. We understand that the EFL had known for some time that the ground had been sold, but because the sale value does not appear to have been inflated, the EFL had no issues with it.  So why was this information withheld from Supporters by the club?”

Blues Trust also published a link to an article in the South China Morning Post, which included a reference to the Blues Trust statement.

A new group of Blues fans, 1875, set up a new website and sent a letter to Birmingham Sports Holdings Chairman Zhao Wenqing, requesting him to improve the situation at Blues. They believe that writing to the powers that be will be more effective than moaning on social media.

The Birmingham Mail published some articles about the EFL charge and other matters at the club. One had a large headline that said, “The fans deserve to know what’s going on at Blues.”  I agree with that.

Amid all this disturbing  news, there were some reassuring quotes from Pep Clotet.  He said that Marc Roberts should be available for the Cardiff game, Blues’ next home fixture on 18 January. And, commenting on the EFL’s charge that the club had breached the imposed business plan, Clotet said the staff and players had been informed “there is nothing to worry about and what we need to do is focus on our job which is trying to win games.”

I hope that today they will try to win their game against Luton and will succeed in doing that.

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Expectations

My expectations before a game affect how I react to what happens.  I went to the Wigan game expecting Blues to win so their poor performance and loss left me feeling depressed. I went to the FA Cup game thinking we needed to win to restore some confidence in our players but not at all confident that we would.

The game started well with Crowley’s goal on 4 minutes. But on 60 minutes, Sunjic conceded a penalty and was sent off less than 2 minutes after coming on. It seemed unlikely we could win with 10 men so Bela’s late goal came as a pleasant surprise. 

It wasn’t the best of games.  The attendance was 7,330, which was our “lowest attendance for a competitive match at St. Andrews since 2016”. An Observer article on the game showed a picture of the empty Tilton and it’s hard to create a good atmosphere when the Tilton is empty. There were several times when Blackburn looked certain to score but didn’t. We were lucky but it is about time we had some good luck. Most pleasing of all was the way our players kept fighting until the end of the game. I went home happy.

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Not good

Birmingham City’s decade did not get off to a good start. They didn’t play well against Wigan and, at times, some of the players who can usually make decent passes seemed to launch the ball into the air without thinking where it might end up. It was a dispiriting game to watch. 

As usual, at half time, there was an announcement about voting for man of the match.  It was hard to think of one but I think if I’d had to choose one, I’d have chosen Kerim Mrabti. He scored our first goal and looked as though he was trying to play. I also felt sympathy for Lukas Jutkiewicz as he seemed to spend a lot of time with a Wigan player holding on to him.

The game is over now, thank goodness, and I’m not going to suggest what should be done. I think Daniel was probably correct when he said that he didn’t think Pep was the problem and that “the problem are the people above him”.  Sacking Pep Clotet might not lead to any improvement in results.  

One bad game is not enough to sever my allegiance to my team. Yesterday’s performance was not the worst Blues performance I’ve seen.  I stayed till the end of our 0-8 loss against Bournemouth in 2014 and that was much, much worse.  I have a ticket for our FA Cup game on Saturday and will be there hoping to see a better game.

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What a game!

Birmingham City scored 4 goals and lost in an incredible game yesterday.  Others will write about what they did wrong but I want to say a few words on what they did right. 

We were playing a game against one of the top teams in the Championship and it was a big game. Leeds brought 1,980 fans and there was a large police presence plus a drone in the sky hovering over the Bordesley Circus roundabout.

I went to the game hoping we wouldn’t be humiliated and we weren’t.  When we went 2 goals down after 21 minutes, I was afraid that we were not going to score and would lose by a large number of goals. But then Jude Bellingham scored, our team started to believe and the game changed. We equalised 3 times.  When Leeds scored their 5th goal in time added on, I was very disappointed but felt proud of the way my team had kept attacking and fought till the end of the game.

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Understanding

Every year I read through a poetry book that contains a poem a day for each day from December 1st to January 6th.  And this will be the third time I’ve mentioned the poem for Christmas eve: In the Days of Caesar by Waldo Williams.  There’s a phrase in it, “naïve with power”, that describes Caesar’s inability to understand something that people with no power had no difficulty in understanding. Like Caesar, the owners of our club have the power to make decisions but there’s a lot they don’t understand about fans.

On December 26th 2015, I wrote a post about the lack of understanding between owners and fans and my desire to have “owners with a willingness to listen to ordinary fans.”  I also hoped that we could finish the year with an away win against Sheffield Wednesday;  we lost 3-0.

On December 26th last year, I wrote about Garry Monk and the way he understood Blues fans, that we wanted “to see players who work hard and give 100%”.  I also wrote that I was looking forward to the game that day; we beat Stoke 2-0.  I don’t understand all that’s happened since then but I’ll always be grateful for the way Monk kept us up and got the fans to back the team on the pitch.

This year, I still think that owners and fans should talk and try to understand each other. But I don’t know how to achieve that. Our owners are the ones with the power and if they don’t want to talk to us, they don’t have to.

I won’t be travelling up to Blackburn today and have the utmost respect for the Blues fans that will be going to the game. As always, I’m hoping for a win and have included a picture of the result of our last game against Blackburn, to remind us that we can beat them.  Whatever happens, I hope the day goes well for our travelling fans and that they enjoy it.

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Thoughts on the WBA game

I went to the game on Saturday hoping we didn’t get beaten by too many goals and came away disappointed that we didn’t manage to hold on for a draw.  Our team played well and scored two goals. But they lacked the quality in finishing displayed by WBA’s Charlie Austin.

There was also an indication that someone at the club was not totally competent. When Blues scored their second goal and went ahead, the scoreboard display assigned the goal to WBA at first and displayed the score as 1 – 2 for a couple of minutes before changing to the correct 2 – 1. It’s not a major error but I find that kind of thing a bit worrying.

But overall, I was glad I’d gone.  There was a good atmosphere with loud vocal support from both sets of fans and my many layers of clothing kept me warm on a very cold day.

I hope all Blues fans have an enjoyable Christmas and a New Year filled with hope.

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Anything can happen

The best team does not always win in football; that’s what makes it so interesting. However, I wouldn’t bet on Birmingham City beating West Bromwich Albion today. I’m just hoping that they don’t score too many goals. This will be the first game I’ve gone to in December as I didn’t go to the QPR game on Wednesday.  I have a season ticket and rarely miss home games but I had something else to do that I thought more important.  It sounds like it was a good game to miss.

I’m glad they have removed the ‘caretaker’ from Pep Clotet’s job title. It sounded so stupid. I have no idea if this means his job is more secure. It probably still depends on results.  Supporters can only support their manager and the team on the pitch. I  hope we support them well today, regardless of our views on who should play and what formation is best.  

My biggest fear for the club is not their performance on the pitch but the indications of a lack of competence in some areas.  They don’t seem to be doing a good job of recruiting volunteer Supporter Liaison Officers and, at some games, their kiosk on the Kop side has not been open.  That seemed to indicate that there weren’t any volunteer SLOs on duty. Daniel has written about their credit scores and said, “The late payment of the CCJ doesn’t strike me as the actions of a company that is acting competently.”  For me, that is more worrying that losing a few games.  

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Thoughts on Fulham and WSC

Craven Cottage is one of my favourite away grounds. The location is great and I can’t think of a pleasanter approach to a stadium than the walk beside the River Thames. Four years ago, Birmingham City won there, 2-5.  I’m not expecting Blues to score 5 goals tomorrow but am hoping for a win. Our home performances have been good so it doesn’t seem unreasonable to hope.

We’ve also signed a new forward, Jérémie Bela. The article about him on the official site says, “Possessing fast feet, pace and good ball control, Bela is a goalscorer as well as goal creator.” I’m not sure if we’ll see him play tomorrow but we certainly need someone who can score goals.

I mainly read football news online but I do buy the When Saturday Comes magazine. It’s a good read and always contains something interesting.  I am reading through Issue 393 at present and have just read about how Haringey increased their crowd. They gave away free season tickets. The chairman argued for this by saying, “It will bring people in, and if they only buy a cup of tea, we’ll make some of the money back.” 

This report put me into daydream mode, in which I decided that if I owned Birmingham City FC I’d give away a few hundred free season tickets to the local residents who live around the ground and are inconvenienced on game days by the crowds, the road closure and bus diversions. My daydreams have grown more ambitious since I first started daydreaming about owning the club after it went into administration following the collapse of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International. That put the Kumars’ businesses, including BCFC, into receivership. Back then I sat in the upper tier of the old railway end stand and I daydreamed that if I were the new owner I’d make sure there was always a working lightbulb in the ladies loo.

The current issue of WSC includes a plea for help.  Their newsagent sales have declined slightly and their advertising revenue has gone down because they are turning away all gambling ads.  So they need more income and are asking readers who can afford it to join a supporters club and contribute something each month. The Guardian newspaper has been running a similar scheme and is now supported by over a million people around the world. I’m hoping that WSC’s scheme will also be successful. If you have never read WSC, buy a copy and see it you like it.  And if you do read it, ask yourself if you want to help keep it running and if you can afford to join its Supporters’ Club.

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Getting old

Eight years ago, on 13 August 2011, I went to a meeting of Birmingham City fans to discuss setting up a supporters trust. Daniel Ivery had suggested on his blog that might be a better way to react to the club’s problems than waving a slogan on a bedsheet. I got involved with the steering group that set up the trust and have been involved in various ways since then. Most recently, I’ve been the secretary but I stepped out of that role after our AGM on Saturday.

I didn’t leave the job because I’ve given up on the idea of a supporters trust but because I’m slowing down as I get older and it seemed like the right time to hand over to someone else. In fact the fate of Bury FC has reinforced my belief in the usefulness of trusts. It looks as though Bury is going to be liquidated so now there’s a group getting ready to form a phoenix club. In their statement they said, “134 years of history will not die when Bury FC’s last rites are read. Bury FC is alive in every single fan.” Every football club needs to have some group that keeps an eye on the governance and finance and which will step in if things go pear-shaped.

It’s not clear how things are going at Birmingham City; the club still seems to be losing money. We might end up in financial trouble again if we don’t get promoted. Performances and results have improved but nobody can guarantee a top two position for a club. 

It was good to get another win on Saturday.  I had just taken a photo of what I thought was the half time score when Pederson scored a goal in time added on, so I had to take another photo.  Luton’s equaliser was disappointing but I kept hoping that we’d score again and Jutkiewicz did. The final whistle went, Pep Clotet came on the pitch to shake  hands and hug, and I went home happy.

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A few thoughts on the Blackburn game

I went to the game feeling my usual mixture of fear and hope. I had witnessed a great performance in the previous home game against Middlesbrough but long years of supporting Birmingham City made me doubt I’d see another one that evening  I was also worried about Sunjic being suspended and was right to be afraid; the team does not play as well without him.  But they played well enough and the goal was a great team effort with Colin in the right place to head it into the net.  

There were no defensive errors that led to goals. In the warm-up, Lee Camp seemed to spend quite some time practising saving low shots. But there was only one Blackburn shot on target during the game, and that was high and tipped over the bar. The fact that there was only one shot on target was due, I think, to poor shooting by Blackburn and good defence by Birmingham.  Towards the end of the game Blackburn tried desperately to get a goal and that led to a rather nervy end. I wasn’t the only Blues fan who was mightily relieved when the final whistle went.

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Rainbow after the rain

When I set off to go to the game on Friday, I wasn’t at all sure I wanted to go. But, as I was on the bus going to town, I saw a faint rainbow in the sky and that lifted my spirits. I don’t believe that God is a Birmingham City fan and didn’t interpret the rainbow to mean that Blues were going to win. But I remembered that God told Noah that the rainbow was a sign of His promise to all people and thought of other times when a rainbow had encouraged me.

That didn’t stop me worrying during the game. Darren Randolph kept making saves and, until Villalba scored, I was afraid we might not manage to get a ball go past him into the net. I was also worried about Jutkiewicz, who looked tired or injured after some hard tackles. After we went a goal up, I was afraid that Middlesbrough would equalise and sure enough, they did in the 87th minute. Then I spent a couple of minutes in despair that, despite our dominance in shots and corners, we’d failed to hold onto our lead.  Then Odin Bailey scored in the 89th minutes and I only had to worry for 5 more minutes of time added on until the final whistle came.  

It was a fantastic game, with a good performance from our players and from the crowd, with many staying to applaud the team off the pitch.  And Blues are 12th in the table, just in the top half.

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Blame game

We’ve lost three games in a row and some people are discussing who to blame. 

Is it Pep Clotet’s fault and should he go?  Or is Pep just following instructions from Ren Xuandong and should he be the one to go? For me, the most important factor is not who goes out but who comes in and I agree with what Daniel said in his editorial:

“The only way Blues move forward in my opinion is if the owners can realise that the club needs a CEO who knows how football works.
It needs someone who can run the day to day things without pushing experienced staff out due to their temper tantrums and inability to accept advice.”

I don’t think there is much chance of that happening. So, as I go to the game this evening, feeling the usual mixture of hope and fear, I think the fear will be dominant. I really don’t want to watch my team lose their 4th game in a row. I hope that there will be a decent crowd and that they’ll provide some good support.  I feel that’s the only thing you can do while your team is playing; you can only support the team on the pitch even if it’s not the team you would have picked.

It’s been nearly 5 weeks since I last saw Birmingham City play, a  family meet up took precedence over football when we played Preston, and I have thought about not going.  But I go because however bad it is, I feel better suffering surrounded by fellow sufferers than to be home alone listening on the radio. I’ve seen us lose 0-8 at home and it can’t be worse than that, can it?

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Losing is not so bad

Losing a game is not so bad as losing your team. Birmingham’s 3-0 loss at Swansea on Sunday was discouraging but Bury being thrown out of the English Football League (EFL) on Tuesday was devastating. It feels as though the whole system is broken. 

The Guardian editorial on the collapse of Bury expresses how I feel in words more eloquent than I could write. I agree that “football is about more than money” and “That is why the end of Bury Football Club after 134 years is important. Before it was shut, 400 supporters had volunteered to mop and sweep the Gigg Lane ground hoping to show that the true value of their football club cannot be counted in pounds and pennies.”

One thing seems clear to me: the League is not doing a good job of regulating itself. The club statement mentioned the “extreme lack of communication from the EFL”.  That’s why I signed the petition calling for the government to legislate for the creation of an independent regulator for football and subsequently to oversee the implementation of such a body.

I will also support the Football Supporters’ Association call for supporters everywhere to applaud for one minute on the 27th minute of each game in a nationwide display of solidarity for Bury. “Why a minute of applause on the 27th minute? Because on 27th August a football club was expelled from the league for the first time in 27 years. Let’s show that we care and we are angry that this situation has been allowed to happen.“

I wrote a short post about Bury on the Blues Trust website and will finish with my football version of John Donne’s poem that I mentioned in that:

No club is an island, entire of itself; every club is a member of the League, a part of football. Any club’s death diminishes all fans, because we are involved in football. Therefore never send to know for which club the bell tolls; it tolls for you.

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